Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Don the Bird Man

I love cities.  I love walking around cities.  I love walking around cities with my camera.  I love walking around cities with my camera and meeting interesting people.  Don the Bird Man is one of those people.
As I often do, on this day I grabbed my camera bag and set out for a walk.  I did not have a destination or route in mind, but as luck would have it, I wondered around Capitol Hill in Washington DC for a bit, then made my way toward Union Station.  With the trains, and the crowds of people, I am regularly drawn to this beautiful landmark.
Just before arriving at Union Station, I met Don.  He was sitting on a park bench feeding a squirrel.  I stopped, chatted a bit, and took a few photographs.  Then Don says, “If you want to see something really cool, meet me in front of Union Station in 30 minutes.
I had nothing but time on my hands and had nothing to risk so I agreed to meet him.  45 minutes later, I arrived at the plaza in front of Union Station which has a fountain in the middle.  Sitting at the base of a nearby light post, Don wasted no time and simply said “watch.”
Don lifted his arms as if a human crucifix and suddenly there was a flurry of activity in the air.  I had not even noticed the flock of pigeons on top of the fountain centerpiece when they spontaneously became airborne, took a couple of coordinated turns guided by some unseen flight commander and landed on and at the feet of Don.  There were likely between 30 and 50 pigeons.
Don explained that he recognized all of the pigeons and had names for 19 of them.  Don was nice enough to make introductions.  The birds were named for distinguishing visual characteristics like Pepper (nearly all black), behavioral characteristics like Thief (previously stole some money from Don), and birds that somehow reminded him of old friends like Petey.  They all had a story.
If you are ever walking around Union Station in DC and see Don hanging out with his bird friends, stop by and have a chat.  I’m sure he will appreciate it.
All of the photographs in this post were taken with a lens I recommend for the kit of every photographer; a fast 50mm prime lens.  For me, it is the canon 50mm f1.8 II.  This lens is tiny, plastic, inexpensive (under $100), light, and takes wonderfully sharp photographs.  Nikon has an equivalent lens.  If you don’t have it, get it!
Have fun and go make some great photography.

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